the Little Red Reviewer

Dune read along, part two

Posted on: July 16, 2011

Hi everyone, welcome to part two of our Dune read along.  Part one is here, and checkout Stainless Steel Droppings for links to everyone else’s discussion.

This week, it was my turn to provide questions, and I came up with a whole bunch, but suggested that people choose whichever ones they felt like discussing. This way, everyone’s posts will be a little different.

If you have never read Frank Herbert’s classic epic scifi novel DUNE, or you haven’t finished reading the middle portion of the book, be warned, here be spoilers!

our story so far:

The Harkonnens have retaken Arrakis with the help of the Emperor’s Sardaukar shock-troops.   the few surviving members of the Atreides household have gone to ground, and after being rescued by the imperial planetologist Kynes, Jessica and Paul escape in an ornithopter. Believed dead by the Harkonnens, Paul and Jessica take advantage of the mythos planted on Arrakis by earlier Bene Gesserit sisters.  But maybe Paul is the child of the prophecy? His Mentat and Bene Gesserit trainings combined with intense quantities of Spice awaken his prescience ability. The futures that Paul sees are either brutal and bloody, or steeped in stagnation. Is there no middle ground?

Meanwhile, Baron Harkonnen is grooming one awful nephew after another to inherit control of Arrakis.

Taken in by a Fremen tribe, Paul and Jessica are tested, and then accepted into the tribe so quickly they can barely think about it before it happens.   Plans within plans, and circles within circles, this is only the beginning for those destined to live our their days on the desert planet Arrakis, known as Dune.

Of the handful of questions I put forth, here are the ones I’ll be discussing after the jump:

Was Liet’s identity a surprise?  who do you think he really works for?
What do you think of Count Fenring’s unusual verbal mannerisms? 
The center portion of the book is still pretty dialog heavy, but what I’ve noticed is the subtlety of the dialog. Things left unsaid are often more important than things that are said.  What do you think of that as a stylistic choice? does it make the dialog more interesting? less interesting?
Dune was written in the 60’s. Does it feel dated to you? How does it compare, writing style-wise, to more contemporary science fiction you’ve read?

Was Liet’s identity a surprise?  who do you think he really works for?

hmmm, not so much a surprise, but I do have to wonder who he’s really working for.  Himself?  the Fremen? the Emperor, in a round about way? The Emperor must know it’s the spice that allows the Space Guild and the Bene Gesserit to have so much power – take the spice out of the equation, and the Emperor (who isn’t quite as dependent on it) gains power. Change the face of Arrakis, and you change the face of the Empire. Who would have thought such a shitkicker little planet could ever be so important?

What do you think of Count Fenring’s unusual verbal mannerisms? 

I never really noticed it before, but he talks completely normally when it’s just him and his wife.  And there is one super quick reference to him “humming” something to her. It’s got to be some kind of secret language between the two of them.  And it also serves as a way to unnerve the person he’s talking to.  His conversation partner is so distracted by his bizarre and almost offensive verbal mannerisms, that it’s almost impossible to focus on the details of the conversation. damn, talk about static!

The center portion of the book is still pretty dialog heavy, but what I’ve noticed is the subtlety of the dialog. Things left unsaid are often more important than things that are said.  What do you think of that as a stylistic choice? does it make the dialog more interesting? less interesting?

in a similar vein to Fenring’s odd verbal mannerisms, there is so much political intrigue and near banter, Herbert almost forces the reader to read the dialog at least twice to figure out the depths of what’s going on. I’m sure when I was a teenager reading this, I only picked up the top most layer, but the whole thing is put together like an onion! I feel like I’m finally mature enough to really appreciate the layers of what’s going on, and Herbert’s choice to not come right out and say anything.  Stylistic choice- wise, this had to be annoying to a lot of readers, who don’t want to have to analyze every single word, and just want to enjoy a good book.  for me, and possibly only because Ive read the book a bunch of times, it made the dialog more interesting.   it gives a what’s really going on here? feeling to the whole thing, and I like it!

Dune was written in the 60’s. Does it feel dated to you? How does it compare, writing style-wise, to more contemporary science fiction you’ve read?

it’s certainly different, but it doesn’t feel dated to me. lol, I guess that’s the definition of “timeless!”  More contemporary space opera typically has a lot more action (where Dune, actually, has hardly any action!), and usually more tech.  so sure, the style and choices of SF “stuff” are different, but it doesn’t feel dated.

* * *

and some additional thoughts –

I get the impression that Duke Leto and Jessica were very close, possibly closer than many married couples. I wonder if she ever shared with him her hopes and suspicions that perhaps Paul could be the Kwisatz Haderach?  If Leto knew her suspicions, maybe that was another unspoken reason he was so happy to get “trapped” on Arrakis.  For Paul’s possible destiny to occur, he had to be on Arrakis and exposed to the spice.  Leto knew it was a trap, but perhaps he also knew it was his son’s only chance.

And that conversation Kynes has with the ghost of his father as he’s dying, a word that came up over and over again was consequences. Ecological consequences, political consequences, personal consequences, the idea that an ecological system doesn’t care if you want it to change right now, or be something else, or work faster.  Dune is one giant meditation / metaphor of consequences.


16 Responses to "Dune read along, part two"

I loved that conversation Kynes had with his father. There was a comedic element to it in Kynes’ increasing frustration (at least I found it somewhat comical) and yet it also serves as a creative info dump about who Kynes father was and in turn who Kynes really is and how deep his role was/is in the vision to change the face of Arrakis.

I get the impression that when the Count and his wife are talking to each other that they are actually doing so in their secret language and that we are somehow supposed to understand that this is what is occurring, but here Herbert stumbles a bit because it isn’t clear that that is what is taking place. It is the normalcy in the Count’s secret talk with the Baron that is even more odd and unexplainable. I would think the Baron would think he was some kind of psycho if he could talk normal to him and then as soon as that conversation ended he went back to the humming.

I’m certain much of what is important in Dune would have went over my head had I read it when I was younger and I wonder now if I would have liked it and stayed with it or if I would have set it aside. I felt the same way when I picked up and read the (excellent) Foundation trilogy a few years back. I appreciated so much more about what was going on because of my life experience. At any rate I am so glad I am reading Dune now because it has been a real treat.

Interesting thoughts about Jessica and Duke Leto. You would think she would have shared that stuff with him, but who knows? It wouldn’t surprise me if that was part of Duke Leto’s motivation as he certainly had the idea that Arrakis was the key to Paul’s future.


When the Count and his wife talked normally I got even more confused by his dialog. I wish there was some explanation and if there was I missed it.

I like the way you have to analyze the words that are spoken and unspoken by the characters. I studied politics in school since I love to analyze speeches and figure out what it is that politicians aren’t telling us or why they are framing situations in a certain way. So this novel is perfect for me!


Carl – Kynes dying conversation was quite funny, wasn’t it? he’s like “Dad, quit lecturing me, i’m trying to die here! any info you give me really isn’t going to help anybody!”. Kynes is such a great character!

i never thought about it before, that we’re supposed to know that Fenring and his wife are talking in their secret language when it’s just the two of them. . . now I need to read that entire chapter again, because that entire situation just fascinates me to no end!

and speaking of fascinating situations and characters, I feel the same about Leto. I almost wish the book had started like a year or 6 months earlier, so we could have seen more of his relationship with Jessica.

TBM – that’s kind of a Herbert thing, dude never explains anything, ever. this book is perfect for someone who has studied politics and political speechwriting (hey, that’s be you!) because you’ve already been trained to look for framing, and things said oddly. . . hmmm, a bit of Mentat training in you, perhaps?


Mentat training…that’s funny. However, now that I think of some of my professors who asked questions not only on the books we read, but also the information in the footnotes maybe I was being trained for something. Maybe some day I’ll figure it out.


I haven’t been very clear in that I do like the Count and his wife. I think their plot line is very interesting and was completely unexpected to me because it is not really in the film. I just wish the whole speech thing wouldn’t have pulled me out of the moment and made it a chore to get through. It wasn’t horrible, I’ve read worse, but it was annoying. Kind of like a fly buzzing around. They are very interesting characters though, and I like the idea that they are trying to plot to bring forth the prophecy, not knowing at all what is going on with Paul Maud’Dib.


At first I thought he was stammering. I really thought he wasn’t able to talk to others and that he felt secure when talking to her but then it was mentioned that he hummed to her. Maybe it isn’t so much a humming as a mental noise (does that make sense?), like an energy field he creates to talk to his wife without being heard.
I agree, it doesn’t feel dated at all. There are a few things he would write different but since it is somewhere outside of our world there are no references that could make it dated.
In any case, you were right when you said last week that there were cool things to come. I liked it much better and at this point I really wouldn’t want to stop reading it anymore.


You came up with some excellent questions. There are so many aspects of Count Fenring that I hadn’t even thought of. I would definitely have to read this a few times to pick up on everything. I think that’s what makes a book a classic, many layers, many interpretations, and a lot to talk about.


Caroline – the first time I read it i completely discounted Fenring, because he’s just so darn weird! and what’s with that stupid stuttering humming? only upon reread (upon reread upon reread, let me tell you!) has more of this epic puzzle fallen into place with me. i guess that explains why my copy of this book is so battered! oh, and in case you’re wondering, the book gets ever better. i’m really happy you stuck with it, this is not an easy book to get into, not by a long shot.

Shelley – thanks! i was trying to hit on some different things. you’re right, Dune is an onion. an onion where every layer tastes completely different.


“Dune is one giant meditation / metaphor of consequences.” What a profound comment!


I think your onion analogy is apt. This is my second time reading Dune and I’m seeing things I didn’t see last time. And even though the film and the miniseries aren’t always faithful to the book, they have helped me understand some of the subtleties of the story. I don’t think I’ll ever truly “get” this story.


[…] on the following blogs: Stainless Steel Droppings ; Beauty is a sleeping cat ; 50 year project ; Little red reviewer ; Gypsi Dune (round 2) was published on 17 July 2011 – 12:37 pm | Category: Books | […]


That lego Dune pic is really quite cool!

I really liked the relationship between Leto & Jessica as well. They seemed to genuinly love and care for one another, and yet kept secrets & lived their own lives too. More realistic than what is often portrayed in fiction I think.

I find I’m liking Jessica more in this second section as well, we get to see more of her and her worries and the risks she is willing to take to defend her son. And yet he finds himself considering that she is, in a way, his enemy. Unintended consequences!


Great questions. The questions, along with people’s answers, actually put me on to things I had overlooked or missed. I can see I will have to re-read this book at some point!

I am slowly catching up with you all on the group read! I want to ask loads of questions about Fenring and the Fremen, but I guess I should wait til I finish the book. I have a feeling Fenring still has a part to play.


I hope you come back here and ask and share your thoughts once you’ve finished the book, Chris.


[…] my post for Part 2 of the Dune read along (part 1 here). This week’s questions were posed by Little Red Reviewer and once again I am a little late in answering them (but catching up). This will contain spoilers […]


[…] my post for Part 2 of the Dune read along (part 1 here). This week’s questions were posed by Little Red Reviewer and once again I am a little late in answering them (but catching up). This will contain spoilers […]


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